Parents, please stop the madness!

Parents, please stop the madness!
February 27
02:00 2020

About a year ago, I wrote a column about what I think is wrong with youth sports. I touched on different issues from coaches, players, refs and the parents. After another year of watching youth sports evolve from different perspectives, the main problem is the parents, without question.

I see now that it’s the parents who are causing most of the issues for youth sports, on and off the court, specifically basketball. For the sake of this article, I will only reference youth basketball, because it’s the sport I’ve witnessed the worst conduct in all of the youth sports.

Profanity, physical threats, bad coaching advice, and undermining the coach are some of the major problems that I have witnessed on the court. I thought that it may just be a small issue with certain leagues or age groups, but I see now that it is a sport-wide problem that is only getting worse.

Some of the things that I have heard from these out-of-control parents are unbelievable. I have seen more parents thrown out of basketball games in the past three years than I have in my entire life. I am not claiming that all parents are doing this, but the number of parents who are is higher than many people are willing to acknowledge.

What these parents fail to realize is that they are doing their children a great disservice by acting this way in the stands. When the kids see their parents cursing and yelling, it’s only natural that they mimic some of the same behavior. As a consequence, referees are seeing more and more outrageous behavior on the floor from the players, because they see their parents doing it.

I was covering a game recently and heard a parent yell a series of obscenities from the stands that even made the crowd say “Ohhhh.” For the life of me I can’t understand how a parent can say things like that, especially when there were scores of children in the stands overhearing this tirade.

As a referee, some of the things that have been said to me have almost made me lose my cool a few times. From a referee’s perspective, the thing that infuriates me the most is that parents have no idea what many of the rules of basketball are. They don’t know what a travel is, an actual foul or even a backcourt.  Parents also have a fascination with yelling “over the back” when their child gets out-jumped for a rebound. I have a message for you parents: there is no such thing as an over-the-back in the rulebook; it does not exist, so please stop yelling that. It is not the other kid’s fault that he has more leaping ability or athleticism than your child.

Another point of concern is the physical threats and intimidation hurled toward referees. The refs are out there for the most part just to keep order and to stay out of the game to let the players decide the outcome. Some parents seem to think the ref is out to get their kid or their team. I’m sorry to tell you that we have better things to worry about in our lives than to have a vendetta out against your child. Ladies and gentlemen, we have lives too, and it does not include concocting a diabolical scheme to foul your kid out of a game or to fix it so the other team wins. To try to physically intimidate a ref because your kid’s team is losing is a bit irrational.

A funny story that happened to me recently: a mother yelled at her son that “the refs are cheating for the other team” and “the refs obviously want them to win” loud enough so the entire gym heard her. What she didn’t know is that I am a good friend with her son’s head coach, so if I were to cheat for anyone, it probably would have been her son’s team. It’s ridiculous claims such as these that upset even the best of referees. I made it a point to shake the hand of the coach after the game and look her directly in her eyes as I was doing so, just to make a point, and the look of embarrassment on her face was all the satisfaction I needed.

One of the more subtle things I don’t like that parents do is the undermining of the coach. I have seen countless interactions with coaches and players where the player is given direct instructions on what he was supposed to do, to only have a parent tell the player to do the exact opposite thing. I never understood the motivation behind telling your child to do something that goes against the best interest of the team.

To put the interest of your child above the interest of the team is always the wrong approach. I just think if a parent wants to advise their child, then become their coach, but don’t tell the child to go against the plan the coach has laid out for the player, because it makes them look like they’re uncoachable.

I am a parent of a child who participates in athletics. When I go to watch her play, I sit back and enjoy watching my child do her very best. As long as she is having fun and giving it her all, that’s the only thing that matters to me. When I see other parents losing it in the stands, it just makes me laugh.

As I thought about why these parents were acting this way, the thing that came to mind is that they probably have never had much athletic success themselves, so they are living out their athletic dreams through their children. I guess since I have achieved the highest of highs in my athletic career, I’m content to sit back and enjoy watching my child perform to the best of her abilities.

It’s getting to the point where there are coaches and referees who have quit simply because of the parents they have to deal with. My hope is that this gets better sooner rather than than later, because youth sports is about the kids, not the parents. 

Sorry to tell them, but no one cares what they have to say, especially since most parents don’t even care enough to learn the rules of the game. 

Please, sit back and enjoy the game, like all the other well-mannered parents, and stop ruining a potential great experience for your child.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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